Modern estimate of the unique biodiversity of Baikal: the basis for ecological research and monitoring of its ecosystem. Peculiarities of formation and biogeographical relationships

Limnological Institute, SB RAS, Irkutsk

Head of the Institute:

Mikhael A.Grachev, Corresponding member of RAS, Professor
P.O.Box 4199, 3 Ulanbatorskaya, Irkutsk, 664 033, Russia
Tel., Fax: (3952) 46 05 04

Principal researchers:

O.A.Timoshkin, Dr., head of the laboratory of biology of freshwater invertebrates N.G.Melnik, Dr., head of the laboratory of ichthyology,
G.F.Mazepova Professor
T.Ya.Sitnikova, Dr.
O.T.Rusinek, Dr.
Z.V.Slugina, Dr.
N.A.Bondarenko Dr.
L.A.Obolkina, r.
N.A.Rozhkova Dr.
I.V.Mekhanikova, Dr.
N.G.Sheveleva Dr
V.I.Proviz, Dr.

Project objectives

a) Estimating the taxonomic diversity of Lake Baikal's fauna as a whole (including inhabitants of bays and coves, both benthic and planktonic); compiling complete lists of animal species living in the lake; Developing a model cadastre of the Lake Baikal animal world; identifying taxons that are rare, disappearing, relic etc.

b) Examining the diversity of ichtyocenoses in zones lying near the coast of the lake and investigating the intraspecific structure of the representatives of the Coregonidae family in Lake Baikal: omul and cisco; c) Preparing for publication 3 monographs in the "Guides and keys to the biological diversity of the Lake Baikal fauna" series; creation of the electronic versions of the guides (based on the GIS-technologies); d) creation of the ethalon colleactions of Baikal fauna, including the type series of the anumals, frozen tissues and extracted total DNA; e). Evaluating the degree of diffusion and distribution in Lake Baikal of palaearctic species and ubiquists in the modern period; f) Evaluating the citogenetic diversity of the Lake Baikal turbellaria: prorhynchidae and bdellocephalla (Tricladida Paludicola), molluscs: planorbidae, and insects: chironomids (G. Sergentia); g) Analysis and characterisation of basic evolution laws and mechanisms for conserving the unique biological diversity of the Lake Baikal ecosystem.

Background and significance of objectives

Animal life of Baikal can’t be determined as well investigated. According to predictions, the total number of animal species list of Baikal may be significantly increased (at list, in 1000 spp.). Karyotypes of Baikal animals have been very poorly investigated too – less than 4% of the known spp. have investigated karyotypes; less than 2% of spp. have been subjected to the DNA sequencing (Timoshkin, 1995). Less than 50% of particular faunas are being recently revised taxonomically. During last 7-10 years the staff of our laboratory have been describing annualy over 20 new taxa. Complete list of Baikal fauna is absent, information on the rare, extincting etc. species is very limited. Scientists can’t answer very “easy” questions like: how many species could extinct, versus, introduced into Baikal ecosystem recently. Students of biological departments of Irkutsk region and Buryatia,with rare exception, can use only old-fashioned, printed many years ago, guides and handbooks. Opinions of scientists on whether Baikal ecosystem has been significantly saffered from anthropogeneous pollution or not, are drastically different and contradictive to each other. Absence or poorcity of the necessary information on biodiversity and on criteria of biodiversity estimations, are one of the most important reasons for such situation. Nevertheless, a clear and comprehensive information on taxa (species) on all organization levels of the living organisms (from faunistic lists up to the native pattern of nucleic acids) is the basis of any biological hypothesis; it is of great practical significance as a background for creation of cadastre, bank of knowledges, optimal scheme of monitoring.

Research plan: approaches and methods

Commonly accepted hydrobiological methods (samplig of different taxonomic groups, qualitative and quantitative methods, etc.), classical comparative-morphological (histological sectioning), parasitological method in combination with karyological, molecular-biological and biostatistics.

Expected results

A complete taxonomic list of the Lake Baikal hydrobionts will be compiled (more, than 2000 spp and subspp), emphasising rare, relic, disappearing, introduced etc. species, which will be a basis for Lake Baikal's animal world cadastre and optimization of the monitoring system.

Four reference books will be prepared for publication: on the biological diversity of molluscs (more, than 150 spp.), the Genus Sergentia chironomids (around 15 spp), and the oligochaeta worms of Lake Baikal; they will be used as a bases for creation of the electronic data bases and guides (based on GIS-technologies); The investigations will result in the publishing of about 15-20 articles.

The diversity of ubiquist, palaearctic, introduced species actively settling down in the zones near the shores will be investigated and their distribution mapped; the diversity of ichtyocenoses of near-to-shore zones of the lake will be characterised

The descriptions of several dozens of endemic species, new to science, will be published.

The karyotypical diversity and peculiarities in the evolution of chromosomes of various groups of flat worms, molluscs, chironomids will be examined; an overview of the information on the karyotypical diversity of Lake Baikal's fauna (the present level of knowledge) will be presented

A catalogue of type collections made by the staff will be compiled (tens of units in the form of total prepared samples; histological cut series; whole individuals, fixed by various fixatives; permanent chromosome prepared specimens etc)

Main reguliarities of formation of Baikal fauna at the present state of our knowledges will be analyzed.

Practical application. The complete list of animal species inhabiting Lake Baikal, compiled in accordance with the requirements of modern systematics, will serve as a basis for creating a cadastre and a database of the lake's fauna; The results of investigating the karyotypes of the Lake Baikal hydrobionts will be a starting point for the citogenetic monitoring under the conditions of proven mutagenous effect in zones of increased anthropogenous influence; The four monographs of the "Guide and key to the Lake Baikal fauna" series, that are to be published in 1999-2001, are intended as manuals for students of biology, or as guides for further studies of the crustaceans, insect and fish fauna of Lake Baikal and East Siberia; The catalogue of some tens of type specimens of the lake's endemic animals will allow access to these collections for a wide range of systematists and will simplify scientific activities of Russian and foreign specialists in faunistic biological diversity; The results of investigating the population structure of the coregonid fishes of the lake will be used for fish-farming strategy in Lake Baikal (regeneration, dislocation of fishing and limits on catches) The results of investigating the diversity of near-to-shore ichtyocenoses will be useful for their monitoring.

List of publications of participants related to the project